HYDE PARK, N.Y. -- "The seafood section is already attractive to men," said Tim Ryan, a senior vice president at the Culinary Institute of America here and a food marketing expert. "They have nice large fish, and guys are going to want to wander over."
But even if you get them to sniff the bait, convincing men to buy more seafood is another matter, especially when they are probably more comfortable at the meat case.
Indeed that comfort level is a key to selling more seafood to men, Ryan said. Make them feel like they are on home turf, by stimulating the sensation of shopping a case they know all too well.
"As meat terms are applied to fish, men respond to them more favorably," he explained.
While terms like steak have been used on seafood for years, it may well be time to start getting creative with the nomenclature of other seafood items as well.
Meat-like dishes, such as skate wing ribs or a chop of swordfish with a big bone in it to complete the effect, are turning up at successful restaurants, and they are profitable marketing concepts that could snare men's attention at the supermarket as well.
Ryan added that restaurant presentations offer a lot of viable ideas for supermarkets, since "HMR is [now] such a key element in retail strategy."
When applying meat terms to seafood, the goal should be "anything that can make it seem more rustic, not elegant and refined," since today's man wants "big, robust, full flavors with hearty accompaniment. Roasted cod loin sounds much more manly than filet of scrod."
He said roasting, grilling and smoking are the three most manly methods of cooking, with stewing and braising at the next tier below, especially in winter. "Men love stew. It's manly and all you have to do is heat it up."
Pan searing, another good term with men, "is a more manly way to say sauteed, and guys can get into searing."
Part of the appeal of such cooking methods is that they darken the color of the seafood, making it look more like meat. A good sign of this principle at work can be seen in the fact that "blackened fish appeal more to men than women," Ryan noted.
He suggested browning, caramelizing and adding red wine as ways of giving fish more color. "Red wine conjures up those men-like images, and lighter flavored wines like pinot noir and merlot go well with tuna. Barolo sauce with garlic mashed potatoes sounds much more manly than julienned mixed vegetables."
For seafood prepared-meals programs, Ryan also recommended side dish selections like home fries or hash browns, instead of egg noodles. Choices like "large grilled vegetables are probably heartier in appearance and sound than steamed cauliflower."
He also suggested that seafood sausages are a manly opportunity for the people in the seafood section to make use of leftovers and trimmings.
Ryan advised keeping the seafood items names short in order to attract male customers. "We don't want to know the ingredients' names, where it was raised or the name of the guy who caught it."
Creating bigger, bolder packaging and offering larger or double portions would be two key ways to make seafood more appealing to men. "A lot of HMR [offerings] are sort of dainty," he lamented.
He also believed that since men tend to be much less interested in prices than women, retailers "might be able to get a couple more price points as a premium" at the seafood case.
Another good way to increase seafood sales to men, according to Ryan, would be to take the salesperson, preferably a woman, out from behind the counter. "If you have them out front with samples, you'll sell like crazy."
Items like oysters and clams, according to Ryan, will appeal to men only if they are easy and "all you need to do is open them." And he added that "you have to make lobsters easy [by offering] precooked lobsters out of the shell or stuffed."
Exotic fish, like Arctic Char, which he said sounds very adventurous, are marketable to men "as long as they are not too foreign sounding. If they can't pronounce it, they are not going to order it."
Ryan even suggested that seafood marketers looking to hook men might take inspiration from the pork industry's campaign built around the slogan, "Pork -- The Other White Meat." His idea: a new macho marketing campaign, entitled "Seafood -- The Other Meat."